Chi Kung (also known as Gi Gong) is a marvelous form of mind-body exercise, as it combines breathing techniques with precise movements and mental concentration. If you practice chi kung regularly, you will reap many benefits; your energy levels will increase while your stress levels fall, improvement in flexibility and inner focus. As well improved concentration and even an increase in creativity and inspiration.
Best of all, absolutely anyone can do Chi Kung. If you are too week to stand, there are sitting exercises. If you can’t even sit, there are lying down exercises. Chi Kung has helped people in wheelchairs and those recovering from illness and injury, even the very elderly can benefit.
Don’t think, how ever that because Chi Kung exercises look simple, they are consequently easy. Chi Kung is a precise discipline, demanding meticulous concentration and patience. It is also surprisingly tough on the muscles.
The Benefits of Regular Practice
Key Chi Kung benefits
- Reduce stress
- Ease joint pain
- Loosens muscles
- Enhances the immune system
- Strengthens ligaments
- Strengthens organs
- Strengthens nerves
- Builds bone density
- Lowers heart rate and improves circulation
- Prevents muscular spasms
- Improves posture / flexibility / balance
- Improves memory
- Aides digestion
- Improves kidney function
Chi Kung exercises help maintain health by creating a state of mental and physical calmness, which indicates that the Chi energy is balanced and harmonious. This allows the mind/body/spirit to function most efficiently, with the least amount of stress.
When you start practising Chi Kung exercises, the primary goal is to concentrate on letting go, letting go, letting go. That’s because most imbalance comes from holding on to too much for too long. Most of us are familiar with physical strength of muscles, and when we think about exercising, we think in terms of tensing muscles. Chi energy is different. Chi strength is revealed by a smooth, calm, concentrated effort that is free of stress and does not pit one part of the body against another.
It’s harder to remedy an illness than to prevent it, and Chi Kung has a powerful preventive effects. However, when disharmony becomes apparent, Chi Kung exercises also can play a crucial role in restoring harmony.
Chi Kung movement and postures are shaped by the principle of Yin/Yang: the complementary interrelationship of qualities such as fast and slow, hard and soft, Excess or Deficiency, and External and Internal. Chi Kung exercises use these contrasting and complementary qualities to restore harmony to the Essential Substances, Organ Systems, and Channels.
In China, the use of Chi Kung exercises for maintaining health and curing illness did not satisfy those Buddhists and Daoists who engaged in more rigorous self-discipline. They wanted to be able to amplify the power of chi energy and make the internal Organ Systems even stronger. This arcane use of Chi Kung was confined mostly to monasteries and the techniques have not been much publicised. One of the most difficult and profoundly effective techniques is called Marrow Washing Qigong.
Practitioners learn to master the intricate manipulation of Chi (bodies natural energy within the nervous system) , infusing the Eight Extraordinary Channels with Chi, and then guiding the Chi energy through the Channels to the bone marrow to cleanse and energize it. The result, according to religious tradition, is that monks can extend their life span to 150 years or more. The Daoists have a saying, “One hundred and twenty years means dying young.” Although few if any of us can devote our lives to the stern practices of the monks, the health benefits of Chi Kung exercises certainly do improve the quality of life of everyone who practices it.
Around 500 CE, in the Liang Dynasty, Chi Kung was adopted by various martial artists to increase stamina and power. For the most part, the breathing, concentration, and agility were assets to the warriors and improved their well-being.
Buddhist monks who use Chi Kung exercises in their pursuit for higher consciousness and enlightenment concentrate on the Chi Kung’s ability to influence their Shen. Mastering Marrow Washing allows the practitioner to gain so much control over the flow of Ci energy that he or she can direct it into the forehead and elevate consciousness. The rest of us can enjoy the influence of Chi Kung on our Shen (spiritual body/energy), but at a lower level.
Whatever reason we use Chi Kung, the practice should raise our Chi to a higher state if we increase concentration, practice controlled breathing, and execute the Chi Kung routines.
Chi Kung Exercises
Ideally we should strive to practice Chi Kung everyday, even if only for 5 or 10 minutes. Try the following exercises to start with, wear loose comfortable clothing and keep your feet bare.
The Standing Posture
This is the basic starting posture of Chi Kung. It puts you in position and helps you become more aware of your entire body.
1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Make sure you find your natural balance, your weight should be neither too far forwards nor too far back, or it will lead to tension and tiredness.
2. Feel the rim of your foot, heal, little toe and big toe relaxed on the ground.
3. Keep your knees relaxed. Check to ensure that your knees are exactly over your feet.
4. Relax your lower back. Relax your stomach and buttocks.
5. Let your chest become hollow. Make sure you relax and slightly round your shoulders.
6. Imagine you have a pigtail on the top of your head that is tied to a raft on the roof. Let your head float lightly and freely. Relax your tongue, mouth and jaw.
7. Stay in this position for a few moments, with your hands hanging loosely by your sides.
8. Now spend sometime visualising the five elements of Chinese philosophy. Start with EARTH (imagine the feeling of weight and rootedness), then WATER (looseness and fluidity), AIR (lightness and transparency), FIRE (sparkle, remember this should be fun) and SPACE (envisage the space within each joint, muscle, breath and your mind).
9. Throughout your Chi Kung practice, keep bringing your mind gently back to your posture, this will help to keep your mind restful.
Holding The Dantian
This exercise stimulates the dantian, which in Chi Kung is considered to be the storehouse of Ci or Gi, the body’s vital energy. It is good for circulation and lymph drainage and helps to promote deep, effective breathing. The dantian is located about an inch or so below the navel.
1. Stand in the starting position (see above the standing posture).
2. Men should place their left hand on the dantian, and then the right hand over the left. Women should place their right hand on the dantian, with the left hand over it. Relax your whole body and lightly concentrate your thoughts on the dantian.
3. With your legs straight but not locked, breath into your dantian. You will feel your abdomen inflate under your hands as you do this.
4. Slowly bend your knees and breath out. Your abdomen will deflate into the whole body on the out breath. Repeat this exercise for at least two minutes, as you get more used to it, you can continue for longer.
Supporting the sky
This exercises is excellent for lungs and breathing, it is superb when performed first thing in the morning because it empties the lungs after sleeping. It’s also very helpful if you have backache. Incidentally, it could be very beneficial if you suffer from repetitive strain injury (RSI).
1. Stand in the starting position (see above the standing posture exercises).
2. Hold your hands in front of your dantian so the palms face up and the fingers point to each other.
3. Raise your hands up past the front of your chest, with the palms now facing your body. Breath in. As your hands come up, keep your back straight and, when your hands reach your face, roll your hands over (so your palms face upwards). Stretch your arms up and look upwards.
4. Opens your arms out to the sides and lower then while bending your knees. Keep your back straight until your hands are in the starting position, but now with your knees bent. Make sure you breath out at the same time. Repeat this at least 5 or 6 times for the maximum benefit.
Turning the head and twisting the tail
This exercise helps to get the kidneys working well, so that they can efficiently eliminate toxins. It strengthens the spine and helps to keep it flexible and strong. It takes a fair bit of coordination, but do persist, as it is highly effective.
1. Stand in the Chi Kung starting position (see above the standing posture exercises).
2. Place your weight on the right leg, keeping both legs relaxed. Lean to the left while raising your right arm slightly. Allow the left arm to curve downwards, so the tips of your fingers touch your left thigh about where your trouser sea would be. Turn your head to look into the palm of your right hand. As you perform this move, exhale.
3. Come back to the starting position with your arms held out and raised to the sides, breath in as you do so.
4. Now shift your weight onto your left leg and lean to the right, raising your left arm slightly and curving the right arm downwards, so your fingertips touch your right thigh. Turn your head to look into the palm of your right hand. Breath out as you perform this move.
5. Repeat at least 5 times for each side, keeping your movements slow and flowing.
This exercise is really good for your circulation and balance, both mental and physical. It helps to calm the mind and, if performed in the morning, helps you to become focused and energized for the day ahead. Just make sure you are breathing out as you rise and in as you return. It’s very easy to get it the wrong way round, which is far less effective.
1. Stand in the starting position (see above the standing posture exercises).
2. While breathing out, rise slowly onto your tiptoes, as high as you can. Stretch your body upwards through the back, keeping your abdomen relaxed. At the same time, point your fingers down and inwards, stretching your arms downwards as you do so.
3. Return your heals slowly to the ground on the in breath and relax.
4. Repeat at least 5 times.
Have you tried Chi Kung exercises before or do you think it may be a type of exercises you will try?